On March 24, 2023, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed House Bill 837, also known as “Tort Bill,” into law. The bill contains sweeping tort reform that will uproot the landscape of Florida civil litigation. The changes apply to causes of action accruing after the effective date, March 24, 2023.
The Tort Bill 837 is a proposed legislation that poses a significant threat to the people. The bill aims to limit the amount of compensation that a victim of personal injury can receive, making it difficult for them to get the justice they deserve. Personal injury firms across the country are sounding the alarm about the negative impact that the bill could have on their clients.
Prior to the bill becoming law, plaintiffs’ firms anticipated this monumental change and filed approximately 100,000 lawsuits. These filings represent approximately 77% of the total cases filed since January 1, 2023. Below is a brief summary of the changes and the potential impact the new law brings.
New Modified Comparative Negligence Standard
HB 837 changes Florida’s standard from “pure” comparative negligence to “modified” comparative negligence. This aligns Florida with a majority of other states who have already adopted a “modified” comparative negligence standard. This new standard does not apply in medical negligence actions.
Previously, a plaintiff was entitled to recover a percentage of damages proportionate to the degree of fault of the defendant. Under “modified” comparative negligence, if a plaintiff is more negligent than the defendant, the plaintiff cannot recover.
This new standard will likely reduce the number of cases brought in which the plaintiff was the predominant cause of his or her own harm.
Two-Year Statute of Limitations for General Negligence Claims
HB 837 amends section 95.11, Florida Statutes, which sets forth the statutes of limitations for various causes of action. The bill now reduces the statute of limitations for general negligence from four years to two years.
This change may encourage plaintiffs to file suit earlier as plaintiffs and their counsel will prepare their cause of action and evaluate the validity of their claims at an earlier juncture. This will also increase the ability to obtain evidence closer to the time of the alleged incident.
Where liability is contested, plaintiffs may be deterred from filing suit sooner. The two-year statute of limitations could also be used as leverage to effectuate earlier settlement and resolution of claims, especially pre-suit.
Admissibility of Evidence in Past and Future Medical Expenses
HB 837 changes the evidence that plaintiffs can introduce to establish past and future medical expenses. Previously, with the exception of services paid by Medicare or Medicaid, plaintiffs were permitted to board the full amount of medical bills charged for services rendered. This was without evidence of any adjustments or reductions and was prior to a post-verdict setoff for adjustments by private insurance. If plaintiffs had Medicare or Medicaid, only the amounts actually paid by Medicare or Medicaid were admissible as evidence of past medical expenses.
Now, the evidence offered to prove the amount of damages for past medical bills that have been satisfied is limited to the evidence of the amount actually paid, regardless of the source of payment. For unpaid past medical bills, admissible evidence will depend on whether the plaintiff has health care coverage, Medicare, or Medicaid.
For future medical bills, the “usual and customary” amount also depends on whether the plaintiff has health care coverage.
Letters of Protection A Letter of Protection (LOP) is a document that a patient’s attorney can send to a healthcare provider, such as a hospital or doctor, to ensure that the patient receives the necessary medical treatment, even if the patient does not have health insurance or the means to pay for the treatment. The LOP informs the healthcare provider that the patient’s attorney will pay for the treatment out of any future settlement or verdict in the patient’s legal case. Essentially, an LOP allows the patient to receive medical care without having to pay for it upfront.
It is important to note that an LOP does not guarantee payment to the healthcare provider. If the patient’s case does not settle or result in a verdict, the attorney may not be able to pay for the medical treatment. As a result, some healthcare providers may be hesitant to provide treatment under an LOP.
Referrals Must be Disclosed:
When a patient is referred to a specialist or another healthcare provider, it is important that the patient and their attorney disclose this information to all parties involved in the case. Failure to disclose referrals can lead to allegations of fraud or misconduct.
For example, if a patient is referred to a specialist by their attorney, but the referral is not disclosed to the defendant or their insurance company, the defendant may argue that the plaintiff’s attorney is engaging in unethical behavior by attempting to hide the referral. This can undermine the plaintiff’s case and harm their credibility in court.
Similarly, if a healthcare provider refers a patient to another provider for treatment, it is important that the referral be disclosed to the patient and their attorney. Failure to disclose referrals can lead to allegations of medical malpractice or misconduct.
The proposed legislation would make it much more challenging for people who have been injured to receive full compensation for their injuries. The bill aims to cap the amount of compensation that can be awarded to a victim of personal injury, regardless of the severity of their injuries. This means that victims of catastrophic injuries, such as traumatic brain injuries or spinal cord injuries, would be limited in the amount of compensation they can receive.
The Tort Bill 837 also places a significant burden on victims of personal injury. Under the proposed legislation, victims would be required to provide detailed medical records and other documentation to prove their injuries. This requirement would make it much more challenging for victims to navigate the legal system and receive the compensation they deserve.
Personal injury firms across the country are concerned about the impact that the Tort Bill 837 could have on their clients. The bill is a significant threat to the rights of victims of personal injury, making it difficult for them to receive full compensation for their injuries. Personal injury firms are working hard to educate the public about the dangers of the bill and to fight against its passage.
In conclusion, the Tort Bill 837 is a significant threat to the people. The proposed legislation would limit the amount of compensation that victims of personal injury can receive and place a significant burden on them to prove their injuries. Personal injury firms are working hard to fight against the bill and protect the rights of victims of personal injury. It is crucial that the public remains informed about the dangers of this legislation and takes action to prevent its passage.